If Amaury Le Compte would have known where his top five students were at the moment, and what they were talking about, he would probably not have believed it. It was a lovely afternoon day, the kind that he liked. The film school’s courtyard was painted in too-contrasted orange and purple flakes and a soft drizzle was staining the red brick walls like an old grained film. 16 millimetres, studio décor, blue light correction filter, quiet and pretty actresses shot in close-ups, he figured. A lovely beginning for a film that one of his best students would have been able to write. Pensée, maybe. The younger one after Anna.
Sheaves of light were slanting through the large chestnut tree and beyond those walls, the third most populous city of France was boiling in naïve activity, a pleasant contrast with Amaury’s naïve stillness, perfectly ignoring what his brilliant little diamonds, his precious chosen elite, a five-heads chimaera, was up to in the school’s chapel.
With a conspicuous slowness, Kasim leaned on the spindled wooden railings and yawned. He was wearing plastic gloves stained with what seemed to be a weirdly dry red paint and his dark hair were tight up in a bun.
‘So you’re sure about yourself?’ asked Pensée, walking back and forth between the large mirrors of the chapel’s hall reflecting its colourful church windows. Her short ginger hair was moving around her baby-doll face, with big dark eyes heavily surrounded by pink, blue and yellowish make-up, like an enthusiastic Van Gogh painting. ‘Everything disappeared?’
‘Chill out, man,’ assured Kasim. ‘I’m the best at my job. Laura’s just a memory now. People will wonder where she is, and all we have to do will be to stay quiet and pretend innocence.’
‘I ain’t a good actress,’ blurted out Pensée. ‘Alright? I study makeup in films, I can’t fucking lie. They’re all going to discover it… We should just have told her to shut up, instead of… Instead of…’
‘Do you really think she would have kept her mouth shut?’ sniggered Louis-Charles, arms crossed against a column, wearing a pricy long black coat, his hair perfectly cut short, his blue eyes sharp and malicious. ‘Although should I remind you that you’re the one who pushed Laura from the stairs?’
Pensée started to shake. She glanced at Kasim, at the bags under his eyes, his slow moves and completely ethereal presence, hoping that he would help her with Louis-Charles’ despicable arrogance, but he lighted up a cigarette instead.
‘You’re such a jerk. I was drunk,’ she defended herself. ‘We all were. It was an accident.’
‘A pleasant accident,’ shrugged Louis-Charles. ‘If she would have talked, our filmmaking careers would have been fucking over. This bitch put herself in trouble.’
‘We stole those scripts ourselves,’ reminded Pensée. ‘We put ourselves in trouble.’
‘And thank to that we’re now nominated to the Cannes Festival, sweaty. Also, we shot those films ourselves, so this is half a steal.’
Kasim had a joyless laugh. The greyish smoke arose from his nostril and mouth, covering him in a foul fog. Pensée hated the smell of cigarettes. That’s when Anna and Maddy walked in, perfect dynamic match embodying two different forms of sensuality and a certain confidence. The first one was French, like Pensée and Louis-Charles, slender, her golden curls catching the light with the same recklessness than her green eyes that were scanning at the world around her like if any exciting challenge was about to come up. The second one was American, with long and shiny brown air and the face and body of an intimidating attractive young woman, the kind that was impossible not to notice or to acknowledge. So here was the five-heads chimaera, and if you think they would have repented of their sins in this gorgeous old chapel, you are mistaken. Also, the confessions rooms had become films set for a few years, or secret rooms for thirsty couples. Kasim was often reminding his friends not to lean on this wall or this door, that he defined as being blessed by the passion he was giving to his lovers.
‘Hello, beautiful,’ softly said Louis-Charles in French to Anna who was casually walking in their direction.
This one briefly glanced at him with a discrete smile. She liked acting with him in Maddy’s films, but once the lights were off, her favourite thrill with this posh Parisian coming from a noble family was to despise him and his dreamy, yet manly look, unbearably beautiful. As for Louis-Charles, who also had something for the games, he couldn’t help but feeling a strange pain when looking at Anna’s youthful face. Unguarded. Keeping the secret of a certainly untamed heart.
‘Amaury is in his office,’ declared Maddy, sitting on a stair in her long velvet skirt. ‘I made up a rumour saying that we didn’t have scriptwriting class. All our stupid classmates are outside now, and thank to that our meeting won’t be suspected.’
‘You look tired,’ observed Pensée.
‘Bitch, of course I am. Not all of us walk through life in a caffeine-fuelled rage.’
‘No need to be aggressive.’
‘You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m just worried. It has been a hectic week. And like, we’re supposed to leave tonight for our first meetings in Cannes.’
A silence followed. Kasim crashed his cigarette underneath his shoe.
‘Are we awful people?’ asked Pensée, who seemed to be about to cry.
No one replied to her and as Anna was starting to lean against a door, Kasim suddenly straightened up and exclaimed: ‘I wouldn’t if I was you.’
‘I mean, I’d rather warn you as a friend.’
‘Oh, yes, thank you very much. I should have listened to Pensée’s advice and stop hanging out with you since the beginning of the semester, so I wouldn’t have known the dirty things you did in the whole fucking school.’
Louis-Charles unlocked his phone, scrolled through something and put it back in his pocket. ‘Who would listen to the advice of someone who got a fucking flower name anyway?’
‘At least I’m not named after my grand-grand dad,’ retorted Pensée, who nervously kept moving. Maddy wondered if she was about to break.
‘That’s called prestige,’ said Louis-Charles.
‘Or stupid patriarchal values and shit,’ corrected Anna.
‘Lovely, do you know what makes unprivileged people so angry like you are? Knowing that if they had it all, they would be as comfortably settled in their splendid existence as I am.’
Kasim crackled his knuckles indifferently. Anna forced herself to bottle up her emotions a bit longer. Don’t break, not now. She exchanged a glance with Maddy. She was the only one she appreciated, and if none of them realised what they had done yet, Anna and Maddy knew already that what had happened would follow them forever, and that they would wonder, in years from now, when their names would we written on the big screen: do I deserve this?
When the chapel’s door slowly opened on a tall, bald man wearing a dark blue suit, Anna’s guts lurched and dropped. That’s it, that’s it, they got us. The floor complained beneath Amaury’s steps, who warmly smiled at them, his silhouette shaped in the shadow of a too- bright autumn sun. ‘The car is here,’ he declared. ‘I’ve been looking for you for half-an-hour, kids. Ready to go?’
As they were all putting their luggage in the cab’s trunk, Louis-Charles stopped to observe Toulouse’s lively streets, listened to its soft din, its French and foreign voices coming up in melodious waves, and the slight smell of rain. He thought: oh, what a pleasant Tuesday.